Joined: 09 Sep 2006
|Posted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 6:42 pm Post subject: Who gets the SHABAA Farm?
|Who gets the SHABAA Farm?
New York Times Sept 24, 2006
SHABAA, Lebanon — Disarming Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shiite group that fought Israel last month, is a major goal in Washington, Jerusalem and even among the political elite in Beirut. But the main stumbling block, at least according to Hezbollah’s current position, is a 10-mile-square area of hilly land known as Shabaa Farms.
Israel and the United Nations say the land belongs to Syria and is part of the Golan Heights that has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. But the Lebanese insist it is theirs, and Hezbollah says it will not lay down its weapons until Israel gives it back.
“As long as we have evidence that we own that land, Hezbollah must fight,” said Qassem Saab, 52, reiterating Hezbollah’s position. Mr. Saab, a Sunni Muslim, was born in his family’s mud-brick house on the now-occupied land.
When the long and bloody civil war ended in 1990, all of Lebanon’s warring militias agreed to give up their arms — except Hezbollah, which argued that it needed to keep its weapons to fight Israel, then occupying southern Lebanon.
Israel and many other observers say the Lebanese claim on Shabaa Farms gained traction only when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000.
According to that view, Hezbollah, backed by Syria, has seized on the farms as a way of legitimizing what it describes as continued resistance against Israeli occupation. Whether or not that claim is legitimate, it is one of the central issues in bringing a sustainable peace to the region.
“Shabaa is the key,” said Patrick Renaud, the European Union’s representative in Lebanon.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Hezbollah will disarm if the Shabaa Farms area is transferred to Lebanon.
[The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, told a crowd in the Beirut suburbs on Sept. 22 that no army could force the militia to disarm. He said that even after the 34-day war with Israel, Hezbollah was stronger, and that it had more than 20,000 missiles.]
“Shabaa is important,” a Hezbollah Politburo member, Ahmad Malli, said during an interview last week. “But maintaining the sovereignty of Lebanon is more important. We will keep our weapons as long as there is a real threat from Israel.”
Even so, the coalition of Lebanese parties opposed to Hezbollah says that removing the Shabaa issue would, at the very least, give it more leverage in pressing Hezbollah to give up its arms.
Israel sees it the other way around. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that if Lebanon fulfilled its obligations under the United Nations resolution that ended the fighting — including the disarming of Hezbollah — then Israel would be willing to discuss Shabaa Farms.
For as long as anyone here can remember, the people of Shabaa say they have farmed the southwestern slope of the Mount Hermon foothills, overlooking the Hula Valley of what is now northern Israel.
After France split Lebanon from Syria in the 1920’s, most maps showed the border running between the town of Shabaa and the farms. It is one of many pockets of land that were separated from their historic administrative jurisdictions when the Great Powers carved up the Levant, as the region was known, after World War I.
But the maps were moot as far as people on the ground were concerned. Though the French-drawn border put the Shabaa Farms in Syria, the people who owned the farms continued to pay taxes to the government of Beirut and continued to register births, deaths and other events in Lebanon.
The Lebanese say a study commissioned by President Adib al-Shishakli of Syria in 1951 and finally published in 1964 found that the farms were part of Lebanon and that the maps showing them in Syria were wrong. Even Syria still agrees that the farms are Lebanese.
The original 14 farms were divided and passed down through the generations to eventually become 14 hamlets of 20 or 30 houses each. By the time Israel took over the territory, about 200 families shared the land. Sitting in his parlor here, Mohamed Ibrahim Atui, 80, unfolded a stained handwritten deed from 1952 recording his purchase “of 32 olive trees.”
“My father sold the land to Mohammad Mahdi in the 1940’s, and I bought it from him,” Mr. Atui said. He keeps the deed hidden in his house for safekeeping.
Besides olive trees, Mr. Atui said he raised grapes, corn, tomatoes and chickpeas on the land. But he has not seen his land since 1970. “The Palestinians were firing rockets at Israel from the area and so Israel began occupying the land, farm by farm, until they pushed us here,” Mr. Atui said.
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Correction: Sept. 28, 2006
A picture caption with an article on Sunday about Shabaa Farms, an area controlled by Israel and claimed by Lebanon, misidentified the animals shown. They are goats, not sheep. The article also misstated the size of the area. It is 10 square miles, not a 10-mile-square area.
JUDEA & SAMARIA are clear and unquestionably JEWISH!
MiddleEast Political Expressions